As you know, travel websites, magazines and TV programs always emphasize the positives about other cultures and people, and often overhype them as well. But they never tell you the negative downsides of a particular country. Instead, they stick to political correctness and lighthearted non-controversial topics. Even sites that aren't funded by the tourism industry adhere to this too.
Thus, it's rare to see an honest balanced appraisal of the pros and cons of a particular culture. So I will give one regarding my native country of Taiwan, which the media and travel websites constantly spread overly positive hyped misinformation about. I guarantee that you won't find such an honest balanced appraisal of Taiwan anywhere else. Most people are not this candid or insightful in their observations.
Pros of Taiwan
- People are very nice, kind and considerate deep down, beneath their repressed exterior. The friends you make are very generous and will bend over backwards to help you, once they get to know you.
- The Chinese food is very good. There is a rich variety to choose from. Taiwanese have a passion for food and live for eating. It's one of their primary interests besides making money. Some restaurants are a rip off, sure, but it is very easy to find high quality delicious food at cheap prices. High quality cheap food is abundant everywhere.
- Cost of living is relatively low compared to Western countries. One can rent a room for $100 a month or an apartment for $200 a month, in most places (but in not the big cities).
- Infrastructure is relatively good and streets are fairly clean, better than most of Asia. Modern technology and conveniences are everywhere. Transportation system between major areas is very comfortable, convenient, and affordable.
- Buildings and streets have high safety standards. Stoplights have timers on them, and subway platforms have glass walls to prevent anyone from falling off them.
- Streets are very safe. Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world, next to Japan and Singapore. You can walk outside at any time of the night and feel totally safe.
- 80 percent of girls are either cute or hot, major eye candy. Taiwanese females take care of their appearance and health well.
Cons of Taiwan
- No good Western food outside the big cities. No good Mexican or Italian food. Mexican food is a favorite of most Americans, so it's depriving not having it around in Taiwan. The pizza and pasta in most places in Taiwan is bland and tasteless. Even the staff at Pizza Hut in Taiwan have never heard of "hearty pizza sauce" amazingly. To them, pizza sauce is simply putting ketchup on the pizza. They don't know how to make decent pizza. (On a side note: While the Italian food sucks in Taiwan, conversely, in Italy, the Chinese food sucks.)
- People are very closed and cold to strangers and make no eye contact. While they may be very kind and helpful to their friends, if you are a stranger, you basically don't exist to them (unless they are trying to sell you something of course). Thus if you go out alone in Taiwan, you will feel very alone, alienated, isolated and invalidated. Going out alone in Taiwan is a very lonely experience. For some reason, no one has the guts to admit this, except me. It's a taboo truth. That's why everyone in Taiwan goes out in groups, never alone. Individuals have no confidence when they are alone and feel insecure. The only people in Taiwan that freely talk to strangers are the elderly and middle age folks, but young adults are like a whole different species there, and much more cold, oddly.
- Girls are very conservative, picky and stuck up. They are not easy to meet or chat up, unless you are introduced through mutual friends. Every honest Taiwanese will admit that the girls in their country are very "bao so" (conservative, closed, inhibited). It's common knowledge. They have this "cold wall" around them which makes approaching or meeting them feel very uncomfortable. Although 80 percent of the girls are cute or good looking, they are mostly empty dolls who are spoiled, flaky and flighty - "all look but no touch". Moreover, they have spoiled rotten attitudes which makes them difficult to deal with. Many older locals remark on this change in attitude for the worse.
- The social environment lacks energy, fun, excitement, stimulation, etc. Most young foreigners I've met in Taiwan have concurred with this, remarking how much more fun, wild and full of action Thailand is in comparison. Taiwan is basically a very conservative, inhibited and repressed culture, which is reflected in everything in it, and explains why people tend to act super innocent. The social atmosphere is not open or relaxed, and social interaction is restricted to cliques. It does not "flow naturally" among strangers in an open manner, except among the elderly/middle age folks. The foreigners who like Taiwan the most tend to be reserved quiet types. What this means is that if you are seeking fun, excitement, wild times, adventure, thrills, energy, action, passionate people, etc. you will likely find Taiwan to be boring, sterile, too inhibited and devoid of stimulating energy. You will feel like you aren't "truly alive" in an environment where you can't "come out of your shell and be your real self".
- The architecture is ugly and consists of slab concrete buildings, which is true of Asia in general. Buildings are designed for practicality, not aesthetics. Concrete cement slab streets in Taiwan with flashing neon signs and lights are all the same - you've seen one, you've seen them all. Of course, you might not notice unless you're coming from say... Europe. Sensitive people in particular may feel drained easily in such environments, for when you are constantly surrounded by cement structures, traffic, cars, scooters, noise, advertisements, and pollution all day, it can drain you physically and emotionally. Better to live in a quiet place in nature.
- Since people are indirect, polite and nonexpressive, it's hard to read people. You can't know what they are thinking or feeling, as they are very indirect and do not like to show their feelings. So if they dislike you or have a problem with you, you won't know about it.
- Taiwan is a workaholic culture, like the US. Most people have little to no free time. They are always working or studying, and only have one or two days off per week. Some even work 7 days per week. It is hard to find people with free time to hang out with. It's mostly foreigners and young Taiwanese that go out for fun, however, the young Taiwanese are very cliquish and don't like to interact with foreigners much. For some odd reason, the ones I know don't have much free time, but the ones I see out having fun on weekends are never the ones I know... whatever... maybe it's another case of Murphy's Law.
- There is a thick language barrier. Most people can't speak English and even if they know some, don't have the guts or confidence to try to use it. While there are ways to get by without knowing Chinese - you can still buy things, pay for things, or use transportation - it's difficult to deal with problems that involve discussions when they come up.